Is Christ’s forgiveness all I truly need to come to grips with what I’ve done?
I am a young Christian girl with a heart for Jesus Christ. I also have a confession. For more than a year I’ve been stealing money from the place where I work. I’ve been changing the lies I tell to others and myself for so long that I’m not even sure myself about the details anymore, but the bottom line is that I stole and spent about $20,000. This week I was caught.
I manipulated my co-workers. They trusted me so much that they still don’t think I stole the money. But the higher-ups know, and now that they’ve caught me I’ve finally told the truth.
I prayed continuously that I wouldn’t lose my job, that I’d pay back all the money, and most of all that I wouldn’t be caught. Sometimes I even tithed the money I stole. If I stole $900.00, I’d tithe $90.00. The stealing grew more and more out of control. Since nobody knew except God, it seemed to lack reality, and I was able to sort of ignore it, if that makes any sense. Finally, I prayed for an escape. Ask and you shall receive. Well, I received.
No, I didn’t forget to read the commandment, “Though shalt not steal” — I know. I was raised in a Christian family. I have an incredible relationship with my parents. I did it anyway. Being caught was an answer to my prayers. Last night I wept at the altar by myself. I think it was the beginning of my cleansing.
I know that disobedience to God isn’t justifiable. I know that I had to confess. I know that I have to repent. I know that I have to submit to whatever the authorities decide. My question is, is the forgiveness and healing of Christ the only help I truly need to come to grips with the way I let this happen? Do I need therapy of some sort? Or would seeking therapy be like not trusting Christ?
I’m glad you wrote, and you’ve already figured out a lot of what you need to hear. You’ve figured out that you were lying to yourself. You’ve figured out that you weren’t being honest with God. You’ve figured out that you were trying to cut a deal with Him: “I’ll give you a tenth of the loot.”
You’ve also figured out which prayers He listened to. The sinful prayer, “Don’t let me be caught,” wasn’t answered, because you were asking Him to be an accomplice in dishonesty and crime. The good one, “Give me a way out,” was answered because you were caught. That was truly the mercy of God, because being caught did for you what you couldn’t do for yourself. It put an end to the sin and the excuses once and for all, and made it possible for you to begin learning to be honest with God and with everyone else. How many of us have reason to thank Him for getting caught!
You know that Christ forgives, but knowing that doesn’t explain how you let yourself get so far out of control in the first place. You’re worried that you might get out of control again. That’s the real reason for your question, isn’t it?
Here’s the way you asked it: “Is it enough to seek Christ’s forgiveness and healing, or should you be doing something else too, like getting therapy?” That is not exactly the right way to put the question. The issue isn’t that new-fangled thing called therapy, but that old-fashioned thing called penance. Why? I’m not down on therapy, but your main problem isn’t psychological — it’s spiritual. So let’s put the question this way instead: Although in a sense it is enough to seek Christ’s forgiveness and healing, what does such seeking require of you?
A condition of forgiveness is repentance, so one part of the question has to be “Is there anything else you should do to be sure that you have really repented?” A condition of healing is that you cooperate with the divine physician, so the other part of the question has to be “Is there anything else you should do for the medicine of His grace to take effect?”
I think the answer to both questions is yes, and here is my solemn advice.
First, see if you can work out an installment agreement to repay everyone from whom you have stolen — the place you worked, of course, but anyone else you aren’t telling me about too. Restitution is good not only for justice toward those you have wronged, but also, by God’s grace, for cleansing the stains in your soul. Don’t try to work out such an agreement on your own; since a crime has been committed, ask a Christian lawyer to assist and represent you. Don’t delay; make the necessary appointments this very day.
Second, if the business you worked for treats you mercifully and agrees to restitution, don’t refuse this mercy. Give thanks for it to man and to God. But if you suffer additional legal penalties, then submit to them — not merely out of legalistic obedience, but in a spirit of whole-hearted submission for what God allows you to undergo for your good.
Third, get in touch with the non-profit organization Consumer Credit Counseling Services, and do whatever the counselors advise you to do. They will not only help you to get out of debt, but help you develop different spending and credit habits. Don’t delay; make the necessary appointments this very day. I don’t think you would have stolen unless other sins connected with money had already taken root.
In the meantime, ask Christ to scour out every stain of dishonesty, of excuse-making, and of self-deception from your heart. Ask Him to make you not only honest, but in love with honesty. That is the kind of prayer He loves to hear. As He promised, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Start hungering and thirsting.
Grace and peace,
Copyright 2005 Professor Theophilus. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Professor J. Budziszewski is the author of more than a dozen books, including How to Stay Christian in College, Ask Me Anything, Ask Me Anything 2, What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, and The Line Through the Heart. He teaches government and philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin.